Wednesday, May 2, 2012

United in trouble?

Manchester United is a club on the decline. Why? If you take Alex Ferguson out of the club than where is the will or ability to win?

After Monday night’s defeat to the “noisy neighbours” questions have got to be asked around Old Trafford. The current United team is being driven forward solely by the will and determination of the greatest manager the game has ever known. Alex Ferguson is by far and away the most brilliant charismatic manager the sport of football or maybe any sport has ever known. He is the single most important factor in the rise of Manchester United to the position of dominance that they have enjoyed for the last near twenty years. 

The problem is that although I fully expect Ferguson to come back fighting from this latest setback, and even go on to maybe win the league for a record twentieth time. What is going to happen when he leaves?

United have a team that is lacking in real leadership. They have an aging midfield, questionable defenders, a goalkeeper who is in need of some serious million dollar man rebuilding and strikers who just are not setting the world alight I am afraid.

What will happen when he is gone? Who will pick up the mantel at Old Trafford and lead United into the future? More importantly when will this happen? 

Any new manager that takes over will need to have a certain length of time to bed in. This means a run of poor results that will not be pleasing to the legions of fans that have come to expect success as par to the course during the Ferguson years. A new man will want to shape the team so that his own brand of football will be recognised as different from that of Fergusons. Or, if not, he will attempt to mimic Fergies style in the hope of continuity a la Paisley to Shankly. But the problem is that no one in the backroom at Old Trafford looks capable or willing to take up the reins  when the great man retires. 

The fear is that just like when Matt Busby hand over power to Wilf McGuinness in the 70’s the club could head into a period of decline. Poor McGuinness was never able to control or get anything out of Busby’s players and always had to walk in the shadow of the big man who was made a director at the club upon his retirement. Suffice to say McGuinness got the old heave-ho that December. United never really recovered from the quasi- separation of Busby from the hot seat and therefore the club suffered the indignation of relegation to Division Two within a few years.

In fact it took 22 years from when Busby stepped down, for the last time, for United to win the Premier League title again. Alex Fergusons arrival in 1986 set the tone for a revolution at the club with a lot of old habits and indeed players being swept out the door. The problem at the moment is that if Ferguson was to go a lot of his players are signed with the club and will be around for quite some time. It will take a few years for any transformation to occur under a new manager. Any attempt at mimicry by a number two or an ex-player is not necessarily going to work either especially if Sir Alex is lording over them from a director’s role that the club would have to offer.

So maybe it is time for Ferguson to step down at the end of the season and for the sake of the club to walk away completely.

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